Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gratitude (& More on Integral Relationship)

Confession: Kira and I are working through a tough patch in our relationship. While it's easy to see it as a conflict of opposing values systems, which makes things seem dauntingly large and difficult to work through, the reality is that we are experiencing growing pains.

During the last year, each of us has made concerted efforts to grow beyond limitations. We both have experienced a fair amount of success in our efforts. The result of this -- and growth is certainly one of the values we share -- is that we have unbalanced our relationship. The dynamic has been shifted in ways that we are struggling to align with.

It seems to me that this is one of the challenges of a conscious, integral relationship. It's a good thing -- as much as I feel that my head will explode some days. The problem seems to be that there is not a good model for the territory we are traveling through right now.

Each of us has identified (both in ourselves and in the other) subpersonalities that are not working well within the current relationship. These subs are products of childhood wounds or previous relationship experiences that are no longer serving us, especially in a relationship that demands full presence and accountability.

The past week or two has been rough. But today Kira said something that she has said in the past more than once, something that never quite clicked for me until today.

She said that we need to have an observer self for our relationship. We each have access to the observer in our own psyches, but what she is suggesting is a step beyond seeing our relationship as a unique entity. It requires us to imbue that unique entity we call our relationship with the higher mind of the witness. I never quite got it before, but today it clicked.

I don't know how to do this yet, but I know that she is right. This awareness does not negate any of the other work we need to do both on ourselves and in our relationship, but creating this integral level element can only aid us in working through the current struggle.

So, today I am grateful for Kira, that she has hung in during a tough time, and that she is wise enough to offer us a way to elevate our relationship, conflicts and all, to an integral level.

What are you grateful for?


Anonymous said...

I'm grateful for you, and that you've hung in with this challenging process, too. Today shifted things for both of us, and I'm feeling a sense of relief (and I'm grateful for that, too).

One piece of this that really stands out for me (since we're letting the entire world in on what we're going through...) is that we both needed to get to the point where we'll sacrifice the relationship before we'll sacrifice ourselves. I needed to reach that place of knowing and trusting that I'll stand by myself no matter what -- and I know you reached that place, too. That's a breakthrough for both of us -- a major interruption of old patterns -- and, I believe, a necessary part of the foundation for an integral relationship: being here because we choose to be, not because we need to be to escape our loneliness.

I'm grateful to be on this adventure with you.

Steve said...

Kira says that you've both reached the point of being prepared to sacrifice the relationship if necessary before you'll sacrifice your committment to personal growth. Do you think that this would still be the case if you were married? Or does a marital commitment override commitment to oneself?


Anonymous said...

Steve raises a good point about integral relationships, I think. The integral couple has to decide at some point: are we Kira&Bill or are we Kira & Bill. See the difference? Is our fundamental commitment to our individuality and self and personal journey (and, for a spell, we'll share the road together) or, fundamentally, are we committed to seeing this through together, even though huge personal sacrifices may be called for. A person committed to herself (or himself) can simply go places that two can't together--the fork in the road will always come; but it's also true that there are lessons and rewards reserved for those who have made an essential commitment within a partnership. I keep finding that subtle and blatant conflicts arise in the relationship until both parties are 100% clear on what they're about at bottom.

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Hey guys, thanks for sharing on this topic.

I need to say up front that I don't think I could be any more committed to this relationship if I had a legal document. We made a commitment before the Kosmos to be life partners, for better and worse, and everything that comes with it.

Our bottom line is that we are committed completely to our own and to each other's growth as human beings. If our relationship was preventing Kira from being as happy and healthy as she could be, I'd want her to say so and to do what she needed to do to be happy -- even if that meant ditching me. I think she feels the same way. That is our bottom line as Kira&Bill. If we were simply Kira & Bill, we'd be over already.

This conflict we went through was tough. We had to face that we might not be able to come through it together. But we did -- not because we had a legal contract to do so, but because we have a commitment that is larger than either of us that helped pull us through.

When I faced the possibility that I might have to give up on our relationship as a result of the impasse we had reached, I felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. It felt as awful as getting a divorce as far as I am concerned.

In this situation, we had to get past the subpersonality in each of us that would rather betray the core self to keep the relationship than be fierce in the hope that we could meet our needs AND preserve the relationship. We both had/have that sub and have seen how it works in other relationships and in this one. It's a very destructive impulse because it creates resentments and the sense that we can't bring all of ourselves to the relationship.

I think I said what I wanted to say in there someplace.


Anonymous said...

Hey all,

I'd like to say a big yes to what Bill said above, and affirm this profound place where it isn't Kira&Bill OR Kira & Bill. It's not an either/or. Our commitment to our relationship pulled us through, and so did our commitment to our individual growth. I can't imagine a better partner in the world for me than Bill, and if I bailed on the relationship I'd be bailing on my beloved as well as my perfect mirror and best teacher (regardless of how uncomfortable the teachings are at times). This is what I'm here for -- to be purified down to my essence, to embody love as fully as I'm able, and to always be on the path to greater consciousness. I'm profoundly blessed to have found a man who's committed to the same things with whom to share my life.

Kai, you said, "A person committed to herself (or himself) can simply go places that two can't together." Yes, that's true, and it's also true that two people in a committed relationship can go places they can't reach as individuals. I got to a place before meeting Bill where I felt as though I was at the end of a road, and I needed a true partner to keep growing. To have the opportunity to continue to grow as an individual, as well as to continue to grow in an intimate relationship, is the most tremendous thing I could possibly ask for.

Thanks for being part of this conversation, everyone. It's exciting to explore this together.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this discussion, which parallels conversations I've had with a good friend for years. A couple things that may add cogent direction to it:

1) Robert Kegan (Harvard prof., Wilber cohort) discusses the meme-equivalents in relationships in terms of developmental psychology (he calls them evolving orders of consciousness) in his books "In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life" and "The Evolving Self" (in an interview in the magazine "What Is Enlightenment," issue 22 (Fall/Winter 2002), he correlates his orders with the memes). His idea of evolution coincidentally mirrors a Buddhist model of the subject "I" becoming witness to itself, which then becomes an object of awareness, thus establishing a new 'meta' I-subjectivity--repeatedly. Much detailed insight on the 3rd-order (Blue--traditional), 4th-order (Orange--modern), and 5th-order (Green--postmodern) processes of relating. 5th order is really 2nd-Tier transitional and sounds very much like the discussions of "integral" here. At the 5th order, the self is not conceived of so much in terms of its accumulated characteristics (its formations) but rather as a self-transforming entity.

2) Robert Perry's "Relationships as a Spiritual Journey: From Specialness to Holiness" addresses in detail the shift from egoic to trans-egoic relating. It is based on A Course in Miracles--the only spiritual path I've found in all my nondualistic wanderings where transforming relationships is a KEY teaching. (Roger Walsh, psychiatrist & another Wilber integral cohort, holds the same view that ACIM represents the deepest spiritual psychology.) The language of the Course put me off for a while, but one day I guess I was ready to hear it, for it suddenly became understandable. Perry, lucid writer and cognizant of Wilber and a host of perennial traditions, makes the ideas very accessible.

I think these items will propel the discussion ahead, perhaps helping people out of some cognitive impasses.


william harryman said...

Thanks David,

And welcome to the IOC!

I am familiar with the Kegan work, but the book by Robert Perry is new to me. Thanks for the lead.

I've never read the CIM, and always wrote it off as new age jibberish. Maybe I need to reconsider.

Thanks again and I hope to see you around.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Iexperienced the "gibberish" aspect myself--for years--but then found myself in a relationship impasse that I couldn't strategize or 'spiritualize' past. Opening the book to its Workbook section (it was on a nightstand at a house where I was visiting), I found steps that deconstructed my habitual ways of perceiving the situation. It was as if it had suddenly been translated into a familiar language (certainly this isn't equally true for all sections of the book).It also helped that I was beginning to study psychology at the time, for Helen Schucman, the 'scribe' of the Course, was a Columbia University researcher in clinical psychology.

The basic '2nd Tier' principle of relationship re-congnizing in the Course is "forgiveness," but this is used in a transcendent sense that is far from the conventional meaning and is more akin to the Buddhist paradox of compassionate detachment. Someone 'out there' has not done something wrong that calls for some condescending pardon. Rather,in basic psycholgy, we are upset by the interpretations we put on others'actions, and those interpretations stem from unmet expectations we bring to the encounter. (Actually, the 'other' as we perceive him or her is a virtual-reality projection of our own inner needs, desires, or patterns of self-sabotage. In exact parallel to Eastern teachings and gestalt psychology, we are in a waking-dream encountering dissociated and apparently externalized aspects of our own consciousness.)Essentially, the Course's 'forgiveness' is withdrawing our own projections onto others and releasing the egoic "sureness" that made those projections appear natural and thus our reactions justified.

No other version of the perennial philosophy I know of actually shows people how crazy their relationship presumptions are and how to reframe them from a trans-egoic standpoint.

On the other hand, I think relatively few people approach ACIM from a real frustration with backfiring egoic efforts. There are so many who see it as a way of 'manifesting' what their ego wants--a total misreading. That's why an astute presenter like Perry is so useful, if not actually essential.


Anonymous said...

I would like to share some preliminary "principles" I thought of for 5th-Order relationships (using R. Kegan's term). Perhaps these parallel those of "integral" relationships. I do have reservations about the term "integral," though, as it refers to the 4-quadrants, lines, streams, etc., as Wilber sets it out. That term may be fine as a descriptor, since consciousness now appears and is experienced in all those forms. But "spiritually" speaking, do the externally perceived right-quadrant ones carry the same causative weight as the left ones? If one really wants to change a relationship, mustn't the thinking change first? (I am not a behaviorist...)

These principles are based on the presumption of holonic inclusiveness, which is thoroughly systemic, rather than the 4th-order presumption of individual independence, which hovers between separate and systemic viewpoints.

1. EVERY reltaionship is systemic and holonic, not just 'romantic' ones or ones we work on in those ways. "Dreaming somebody up" is a systemic and holonic process (though when people are not aware of this, they are actually relating to some "ghost" from their own past and not the current person they are in relationship with). It is impossible to separate 'what' we perceive in others from 'how' we perceive it. Therefore these principles apply to every encounter that we have.

2. Everything we see in the other is a reflection of our own state of mind. Everything the other sees in us, if it pushes any button, is also a reflection of our own state of mind. This may be an unconscious state which we have dissociated from and hence projected, but the fact is that it couldn't be experienced by EITHER person unless it were present in the minds of BOTH. (The meta truth is that there is only ONE Mind for all, and the divisions of "me" and "you" are dissociative projections.)

3. If one partner is angry, the other has anger, too, even if not aware of it. If one partner attacks, the other partner is also holding attack thoughts, even if not aware of this. (An attack thought is not just a thought of attacking the other; it is also the thought of BEING attacked. Thus fear is an attack thought. Seeing oneself as an 'innocent victim' of the other's anger or attack IS a form of attack itself--it says, "You ARE mean or crazy for doing this to *me*" and this typically results in some form of 'righteous' counter-anger and counter-attack.) All this means that any feeling arising in one is picking up on something that is present in both.

4. The way to work on any 'problem' is to see that "my" mind (or my registration of the common Mind) has picked up on a joint dynamic. Rather than reactively trying to change the other, who is simply acting out the same dynamic, I see how I am holding the same thought or feeling, while perhaps denying and projecting it. This is always true, even if the thought or feeling is taking a different form--the other, as a reflector, has simply brought it out. When I understand this, I release my part in this dynamic (which includes positioning the partner as contrary), for the good of both of us.

A start... Feel free to comment, question, or add.

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Marc Beneteau said...

Interesting site and post.

Regarding this and a previous post on Deida and relationships: I had quite an epiphany today. If you accept Deida's premise that the masculine goal is freedom (or access to power, money etc) and the feminine goal is love. I have been fighting with my partner for most of the time we've been together "can't you see I am your access to power and why won't you support that". Finally got she is not interested in power and that also she is my access to love. Taking in the kind of feedback she has recently been giving me (in the way of how obnoxious I can be) is my access to love. Love isn't my primary goal or function -- despite my protestations to the contrary, I can't really help myself I am a masculine person, whereas she is deeply feminine. Just to clarify that for me "love" has to do with unconditional acceptance and enjoyment of being, whereas power or freedom has to do with the ability to select one's experience chart one's destiny. Both are necessary for a mature person.